This blog is about my own journey to sustainability—getting outside of the box and being more authentically human. It’s about not viewing 'wealth' as money, but as something much more holistic and broad. The ideas presented here come from my newest book, The Good Life: How to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Unplugging from The Man, Part 3

Marcuse called it choosing not to participate in one-dimensional society. I'm calling it Unplugging from the Man. No difference. It's getting free. Seeking liberation from a system that is choking the life-blood out of our humanness. Once we've made up our minds to Unplug, we need to map out a blueprint for doing it. There's a lot to do and we can only do a bit at a time. So, jump in wherever works best for you--but keep at it. Keep Unplugging one step at a time until you start to feel free. Fewer bills, less rushing around, better health and more happiness!

Let's turn our attention to some super easy places to Unplug that will give you a lot of bang for your buck. Let's look at doing things at home (wave goodbye to commercial culture) and by hand (wave goodbye to industrial culture):

(1) Cooking. Marcuse, in his Essay on Liberation, says that if our lives were more aligned with The Beautiful (and I would say, therefore, Good Lives!), that art would recapture some of its more primitive "technical" connations such as the "art of preparing food". Cooking at home turns an otherwise sterile kitchen into the living heart of a home. The smell of a fresh pie, the sound of a stirfry, the sight of a quiche fresh from the oven all spell connectedness. It is the sensory experience of community. Stories are told, news is shared, gossip is swapped. We are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Homecooked food is more nutritional, more cost-effective, creates less waste and builds community. Dinner anyone?

(2) Cultivating. And, so much the better if the food that you are preparing was grown right outside your kitchen window. Take out your lawn and put in a vegetable garden! I have just returned from a tiny town in rural Portugal where there wasn't a lawn in sight. Instead, every single yard was full of lemon trees, orange trees, vegetable gardens and potato patches. The edible yards were really beautiful--alive with color and interesting layouts. Families were outside tending their gardens together to the tune of laughter.

(3) Crafting. Why don't you start with making some of your own clothes. You can go uber-creative and make "wearable art". Or, you can mix old and new school by knitting/crocheting some really unique, one-of-a-kind gladrags. This winter I cranked out a new pair of wool socks, a silk hat, an alpaca sweater and I'm halfway through a long crochetted cape. Good looking stuff, handmade by the fire with friends and family doing their thing nearby. And, once you're handy with a needle and thread, you can mend your existing clothing really quickly, also extending its useful life.

(4) Power Down. Have you tried turning off the lights for a night? Fabulous! How about designating one or two nights a week as no-lights nights, using only candles and/or olive oil lamps. It's romantic. It's beautiful. And, you'll find yourself shifting into a much more relaxed evening protocol. I often play my harpsichord with blazing candles on both sides of my sheet music. Baroque music, played with the feel of the baroque period! Once you get used to going without lights every now and then, you'll find yourself discovering other electrical appliances and/or devices that you, frankly, just don't really need. Things that you previously considered "necessities" will seem extraneous.

(4) Freecycle. So, then you can give them away! My area has an online forum of "stuff" that people want to give away. No strings attached--just given freely to others. I list "stuff" on there periodically and have made some really great connections with people here in my area. It makes me feel really good to watch someone get something - for free! - that they really needed and weren't in a good position to buy.

(5) Live! Finally, find more ways to actually inhabit your home. You own it. Live there! Some people own their houses, but are hardly ever home. Find ways to spend more and more time in your own castle. Enjoy it. Invite people over. Cook together. Cultivate together. Craft together. Power Down together (it's fun to have people over on no-lights night! How about a cozy little candlelight dinner party?). And, swap "stuff". Become co-heirs in freedom: the rawest form of succession. Liberated. Unplugged.

Author’s Note: This blogpost was the third in a series of articles about Unplugging from the Man. Stay tuned for more suggestions and ideas about achieving personal freedom.